Why Are College Students Least Likely To Seek Substance Abuse Treatment?
Despite having larger incidents of substance abuse than other age groups, college students are the least likely to seek substance abuse treatment or to acknowledge the need for help with substance use problems.
Study after study shows that young adulthood is the peak developmental period for the onset of drug and alcohol abuse problems. This may be due to the correlation of drug and alcohol use rates among college students, as many studies such as the study by the American Public Health Association show that college students – as well as nonstudents of college age – have higher use rates than other age groups. This survey, confirmed by other studies, estimate that among those age 18 to 25 almost one fourth (21.2%) meet criteria for an alcohol or drug use disorder (which is almost 9% higher than younger persons and 7% higher than older persons). Interestingly, part-time college students have are less likely (15%) to have a use disorder.
According to the studies, only 4% of full-time college students with an alcohol use disorder received any treatment services in the year prior to the study. In one study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, researchers found that, in most cases, there was at least some self-recognition of a substance abuse problem among college students. This was indicated to the researchers by the occurrence of self-change behaviors (most often unsuccessful). However, of those with an alcohol use disorder who did not receive treatment services, only 2% of full-time college students, close to 1% of part-time college students, and approximately 3% of young adults who were not in college reported a perceived need for alcohol treatment.
While the study exclaims that college students’ help-seeking behavior is poorly understood, the social pressures for college students most likely contribute to the lack of perceived need for help. If many college students are not cognizant of the problems associated with substance abuse behavior it would lead them to have a less urgent attitude about seeking help when they’re aware they have a problem. Similarly, the often-newfound independence many college students experience along with parental and social pressures to succeed may also contribute to a resistance to seek external help. Another contributor may be a general the unawareness of the lack of success of “going it alone” compared to seeking help through programs and communities of soberand clean individuals (Like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or any of the others).
Hopefully, through outreach efforts of organizations like The American Addition Centers, Start Your Recovery, and even groups like 24 South, information for college students facing addiction challenges will get better.